Thursday, 8 April 2010

Through The Grater: US TV Pilots 2010 Special

 Ahh, Spring. The time of year when US television shows empty out all their pockets and show us their best cards to create tantalising cliffhangers designed to keep us chomping at the bit all Summer. There were some goodies last season: Annie’s hit and run on 90210* (which caused many a re-watch and pause and squints: “is that Ethan or a deer?!”), Lucifer’s release on Supernatural, and of course, FADE TO WHITE on Lost. So I’m excited to see what tricks they have in store for us this year, and in the case of the latter, what send-off they’re going to leave us with. Because yes, the end of Lost is rapidly approaching (and I need to catch up! ahem) and as with the end of all shows, especially long running ones, they need replacing and they need replacing successfully. So Spring is not just a time for parting ways, it’s also a time for writers and producers to step up from their chairs, flick open a new page on the easel, and show us what they’re going to dazzle us with next. Yes, it’s PILOT SEASON!

It’s a ruthless period. You get one chance to impress the station, and if you’re not their cup of cawfee then you’re out. Of course there are still some terrible shows that get commissioned for a full series anyway based on a horrible genre that it’s all the rage at the moment, but I’m going to overlook all the reality interference and the formulaic unfunny comedies that get picked up every season as fodder and concentrate on drama instead, because that’s what US TV does best. So channel by channel, here are my thoughts on what we can look forward to in 2010/11 – and I’m particularly excited this year because one of the shows that’s been picked up is something I’ve had my eye on for some time…

ABC Family
… so let’s start with that now! I seem to have a habit of discovering some of my favourite books by reading reviews of them in magazines I have picked up to read while my hair dyes in a hairdressers. I have an old edition of Marie Clare to thank for introducing me to Emily Maguire, and an issue of Glamour sparking my attention for The House at Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse. And at the beginning of last year another now forgotten magazine (let’s just call it Elle) pushed Pretty Little Liars my way. Pretty Little Liars is an odd book, because what looks on the surface like teen literature actually gets a place in the general fiction shelves of Waterstones. The plot is a heady mix of early Gossip Girl and The Virgin Suicides, centring on a group of teenage best friends who start receiving messages from an unknown named ‘A’ threatening to expose all their dark secrets, which suspiciously coincides with the disappearance of the leader of their clique, Ali. Now, just like with Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal, I haven’t actually read Pretty Little Liars. It’s been on my ‘to buy’ list for quite some time, and part of the reason being because it’s had such huge success in America (along with the likes of The Luxe by Anna Godbersen which I have actually turned the pages of), and has gone on to spawn a long series of books. And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. So I was waiting for a quiet time in my life to order the first few of them and then settle down for a good long bookworm sesh. Sadly this hasn’t happened yet, and the books now keep piling up. Now getting onto the TV part of it – late last year ABC Family signed on to produce a pilot episode of the series which sent me into all kinds of frenzy and gave me a massive kick up the backside to get on with reading it! And as cruel luck would have it when I went into Waterstones to order it in January (hello lovely gift card), the printing of the first book has stopped, and they’ve run out of copies. Obviously they’re planning to re-launch the whole series when the TV show goes live in September, but THAT DOES NOT HELP ME NOW! Gah. But the book is still available on the internet route, so that’s where I’m headed next. But I am extremely excited about this project, as I think it could be really engrossing pure guilt television if it’s done in a sassy and stylish way. ABC Family run very similar programming to the CW (culturemouse’s favourite addictive channel) with current shows such as Greek, The Secret Life of an American Teenager and Kyle XY. Haven’t actually dipped into the station as yet myself but I will be there on June 8 when Pretty Little Liars premieres its ten episode run! A sneaky promo has been released – I just hope it’s not going to be too geared towards the teeny boppers or too schmaltzy. IT’S ON THE FICTION SHELF IN WATERSTONES, I TELL YOU! Here’s the trailer below so I can mebes entice you in:

Generally a load of boring legal/crime/medical tripe, but this looks interesting: Generation Y is:

“a documentary-style drama that watches a group of people both in the present and 10 years ago. The show watches the individuals as they attend senior year of high school and then flashes forward to show where they are today”.

Kinda reminds me of a book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time by David Nicholls called One Day and the Sundance film I’m really excited about The Romantics. Doesn’t specify whether the group are separated in the present or still hang out with each other, but I’m a huuuuge fan of angsty friend reunion dramas (see also ‘The House at Midnight’ which I mentioned earlier). This could be brilliant, especially if it gets the mixture of humour and melodrama just right.

Ugh, hate CBS. Next!

Nothing really stands out. Betwixt has potential: “changelings who are responsible for saving humans from evil” but it depends on the angle. And Hellcats - "ensemble show set in the world of competitive college cheerleading; Election meets Bring It On' – sounds horrific apart from the reference to Election, which is a brilliant film. If it’s quirky and has a sly, dark humour to it ala Ryan Murphy (pre Glee) then it could be interesting, but if it’s generic pompom bashing ala Bring It On, then I’m out.

Rubbish this year.

Another horrible channel.

Cable channels of note:

Nothing interesting in development


A programme of real interest called Syns. It sounds exactly like Dollhouse – “formerly known as Dolls' Hospital (!), it is set in a world where the Syns, human-like synthetic beings much like the replicants in Blade Runner, are used for various purposes” – and also Supernatural Season Six spawner Sera Gamble is producing it. The last update for this was December 2008, after Dollhouse was aired, so whether it’s still going ahead or not I have no idea. There are no details on imdb. Very curious.

So there we have it! Pretty Little Liars is actually on a Summer run as opposed to 'Fall' but it still counts as a new show. And I'll be eagerly awaiting promo for Generation Y to see what tone they're going for with that one. It's only two out of scores of new shows, but at least I'm not going to be overwhelmed come September. And I still have all the regulars to maintain!

*hitting and running to Band of Horses no less!

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